Tropical storm contributes to deadly local 4th of July weekend

BRUNSWICK COUNTY (WWAY) — Sunday, Oak Island responded to six separate rescue calls, including the fourth Oak Island drowning of the season. All this while Oak Island Water Rescue says they flew a double red flag, discouraging people from getting into potentially dangerous water.

“They can be in 18 inches of water, a wave knock them over, and all of a sudden a rip current will take them out,” Assistant Chief Tom Hathaway explained.

Though conditions were rough after the tropical storm, several swimmers, including 52-year-old Hickory native Kevin Whitley, made their way through the waves.

“Several swimmers that were out in the water, they saw what they thought was some type of a fin and they started to leave the water,” Hathaway remembered.

All except Whitley, who officials believe got pulled out by a rip current. Seeing the man, bystanders called Water Rescue while a vacationing police officer was able to bring the man back to shore. A nurse and several doctors vacationing in Oak Island ran toward the commotion.

According to Hathaway, “By the time we arrived, they were already doing CPR, and the one medical lady was actually performing mouth to mouth necessitation.”

Whitley died Sunday afternoon. The fourth to drown in Oak Island this summer, Hathaway is urging beachgoers to pay attention to flags and stay safe.

“Please, please, please stay out of the water. Enjoy your vacation and keep your family safe.”

Elsewhere in Brunswick County, the Coast Guard says two people were minorly injured after three boats collided near Holden Beach.

According to Lieutenant Andrew Jacot, a center console boat crashed into two pontoon boats that were traveling together Sunday evening. Coast Guard found no signs of drug or alcohol use. The crashed caused only minor injuries, including a head injury and a cut.

Emergency crews also responded to Masonboro Island on Sunday. New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office confirms lightning struck a man on the island. We do not have an update on his condition, but the Sheriff’s Office says the victim was in poor condition when they arrived.

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